Leonard Byron Peterson

Leonard Byron Peterson, playwright (born at Regina, Sask 15 Mar 1917, died at Toronto 28 Feb 2008). Len Peterson grew up in Regina, spending his high school years at Scott Collegiate and then attending Regina's Luther College until 1936, in its arts program. He received a Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 1938, and was in the Canadian Infantry during WWII. A prolific playwright, he established his reputation as a radio dramatist in the 1940s and wrote documentary films, musicals and stage plays for both children and adults.

During Len Peterson's long career he produced more than 1200 scripts. His stage plays often dramatize the individual or small community's struggle against the threat of large and dehumanizing societal forces. This theme is present in Burlap Bags (1946), a dizzying vision of human insensitivity, and in Almighty Voice (1974), a one-act play about the government's hunt for a Cree man who stole a cow to feed his starving people. Peterson's humanism and social concerns are also evident in They're All Afraid (1981), which deals with a young man's alienation, and in The Trouble With Giants (1973), an unpublished radio play about the erosion of a unique Lithuanian culture. In The Great Hunger (1960), set in the Arctic and concerning the retribution for a killing, he explored the importance of communal myths.

Peterson's many other plays include Women in the Attic (1971) and The Eye of the Storm (1985). In his examination of the complexities of the self, Peterson often staged pyschodramas, in which fragments of the psyche assume distinct identities, in combination with moments of theatrical realism.

A cultural activist, Leonard Peterson was involved in the formation of ACTRA and the Playwrights Co-op, now after several transformations and amalgamations the PLAYWRIGHTS GUILD OF CANADA. He also wrote instructional scripts for young people that were produced on CBC radio and several one-act plays produced by Young People's Theatre, including Billy Bishop and the Red Baron (1975) about the two WWI flying aces.

In 1974 Leonard Peterson received the John Drainie Award for his contribution to broadcasting. The Playwrights Guild named him an honourary lifetime member in 2001.